The Misadventures of Max Crumbly: Locker Hero
Rachel Renee Russell
Simon & Schuster, 2016 302 pgs.
Russell, along with her two daughters, turns her attention away from the mega-popular Dork Diaries series and introduces a male character. Because of severe asthma, Max was previously home-schooled by his former kindergarten-teacher grandma. He is anxious to leave sippy cups and graham crackers behind as he enters the hallowed halls of South Ridge Middle School. Because of his natural clumsiness and social awkwardness, he becomes a target for a bully named Thug. After many harrowing and humiliating encounters with Thug, including one witnessed by his crush Erin, Max gets thrown into a locker, where he is fated to remain for the entire Columbus Day weekend. A soft wall in the back of his locker is pushed through and Max finds himself in a long forgotten room in the school. The room has no doors or windows, so Max must try to escape through the air duct system. While crawling around the metal pathways, Max overhears three men of bumbling natures attempting to steal computers from the school. Naturally, they discover our hero before he has a chance to call for help. It is now up to Max to escape from the bad guys and see that justice is done, all while not letting his parents find out what is happening and force him back into grandma-school.
Russell and daughters employ the technique used to popularize The Dork Diaries to expand the umbrella of their audience to include boys. Characters from the previous series pop-up, which will draw in old fans, all while drawing in new ones. Much like The Dork Diaries, slapstick humor and awkward situations are utilized to amuse readers and enable them to feel better about their own "dorkiness", which can't be half as bad as poor Max. Max is a likable character who tries earnestly to fit in. No matter what he does, it always manages to backfire, usually with humiliating and hilarious results. Potty humor abounds and gross situations will amuse the intended audience. Much of the action reads like something out of a comic book. The story is over-the-top and quite unrealistic, but this, again, will delight reluctant readers. The bad guys are stock characters from an old movie. They remind me of the villains from Home Alone; bumbling, stupid and never a real threat. Comic-like illustrations are expertly drawn and abundant. They add to the plot and are an intricate part of the story. The book ends with a cliff hanger, encouraging the reader to head right to book two, which is scheduled for a June, 2017 release. Is this the stuff of great fiction? Perhaps not. Will kids want to pick it up and read it through to the end? Absolutely!